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  • Collegian staff

Take a hike: where to walk, run and bike

Sanja Zelen


Oregon has a reputation for being a hub for outdoor junkies. Its vast green forests, cold lakes, soaring mountains and mystical beaches provide the perfect escape for hikers of all experience levels. Most of these locations are less than an hour away from Salem as well, while others can be reached on foot. Below are some of the best places for Willamette University students to walk, hike, run and bike.

1.Minto-Brown Island City Park: 

Distance from Willamette: 0.6 miles. Rating: Easy.

Whether you’re a hiker, a runner or a biker, the trails in Minto-Brown provide a wonderful escape from city life as they wind through trees and past open grasslands. A mile from the pedestrian bridge (located just off of State St.), one can find a dog park, easy access to the river and picnic benches. The Minto-Brown loop is 7.3 miles, but one can easily shorten the loop and still get a great view of the park. This loop is moderately crowded and is busiest on weekends. Salem residents rated this hike easy and accessible on

2. Champoeg State Heritage Area Loop:

Distance from Willamette: 35 minutes by car. Rating: Easy.

Champoeg is comprised of flat, paved trails that are great for walking, running and biking. The trails wind through the woods and across bridges. Most parts of the trail provide a scenic view of Mission Creek. The trail is an 8.6-mile loop that can best be enjoyed from March to October. It was rated as easy on

3. Silver Falls State Park:

Distance from Willamette: 43 minutes by car. Rating: Moderate. 

This trail is a must for students who love waterfalls. describes it as “the crown jewel of the Oregon State Parks system” because of its unique opportunity to see 10 waterfalls along just seven miles of trails. The trail is located in a rocky canyon and is mostly in the woods. Its most popular waterfall, the South Falls, can be viewed just a half mile from the trailhead. This waterfall is one of the few in Oregon that can be walked under, providing a thrilling view of 177 feet of water rushing over the side of a cliff. The loop is a great opportunity for trail runners as well. Silver Falls hosts an annual series of trail races in early November that can be signed up for on 

4. Cascade Head:

Distance from Willamette: one hour by car. Rating: Moderate.

Located in Lincoln City, this hike combines steep trails, dense forests and a view of the ocean to create a stunning two to five mile loop. It starts out flat alongside saltwater marshes, then winds its way up forested dirt trails. A couple miles up, the trail comes out of the woods to reveal grassy bluffs occasionally spotted with elk, rocky cliff faces and a clear view of the ocean. The trail distance can vary from two to 5.4 miles, depending on whether the hiker wants to reach the first view point, Cascade Head, or go all the way up to Harts Cove. Elevation gain ranges from 160 to 1,200 feet. Hikers on rated this trail as moderate.

Regardless of whether you’re new to hiking or an experienced trail runner, these locations can be enjoyed by all. The Outdoor Program offers trips to a wide variety of locations across Oregon- the Oregon coast, Crater Lake and Painted Hills, to list a few. Who’s ready to get exploring? 

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